Canada stumbles at home in World Cup qualifying draw with Honduras
TORONTO - Canada's quest to reach international soccer's biggest stage for just the second time got off to an underwhelming start Thursday.
Host Canada and Honduras traded penalties on either side of the interval during a 1-1 stalemate as the final round of CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying kicked off at BMO Field in Toronto.
Canada's starting XI was arguably the most talented of John Herdman's tenure. Elder statesman Atiba Hutchinson returned to the fold to pair with the impressive Stephen Eustaquio in midfield, while Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies spearheaded an attack that included Jonathan David and Cyle Larin.
All that firepower didn't amount to much in a first half that favored the visitors.
Fabian Coito's lot was rewarded for a sustained period of pressure during the opening frame, with Honduras striking first in the 40th minute when Canadian wing-back Tajon Buchanan brought down Andy Najar in the area. Alexander Lopez stepped up and lashed the penalty into the bottom left corner beyond a lunging Milan Borjan. Lopez was stretchered off after appearing to injure his knee on the penalty, and Romell Quioto replaced him.
Herdman's halftime talk must have struck a chord, as Canada started the second frame strong following several incisive attacks down the left flank from Davies.
The Canadians drew level during the 65th minute when Maynor Figueroa - Honduras' all-time leader in international appearances - scythed down Junior Hoilett in the box after he was introduced at the interval for Buchanan. Larin fired home the spot-kick to give him 11 goals for Canada during the calendar year and 19 over 41 appearances.
Canada, which entered the match sitting 59th in the FIFA rankings, couldn't notch the game-winner despite controlling most of the possession in the latter stages against 63rd-ranked Honduras.
Despite the result, Herdman was happy with Canada's inspired showing after the break.
"I think we got to see the real potential of this team in the second half," Herdman told reporters post-match.
"The key for us is that we've dropped two points tonight and we have to make those up," he added.
Next up for Canada is a cross-border clash with the United States at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday. Canada has won only one of the team's last 18 meetings against its neighbor to the south, winning 2-0 during the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League at BMO Field in October 2019.
The final round of the CONCACAF qualifying format features eight teams playing 14 games each across five international windows. The top three squads in the standings at the end of Matchday 14 automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-placed side will compete in the intercontinental playoffs. CONCACAF qualifiers conclude in late March.